Part 11 of a continuing series, (see Part 1 here), documenting and reflecting on a set of states I mapped and moved in 2008. The set revolves around a deeply buried, internalized violence taken on in childhood and adolescence in response to experiences with my father.
In today’s post I want to share an additional state that was not directly part of the set including Vicious Enforcer, but instead stood outside of it, in a witness position. Also, this was not included in the presentation of this set in the 2011 book, so all the discussion is fresh for today. First let me describe the state, and then I will talk a bit about the phenomenon of the witness, the role it plays in our inner dynamics, and how to go about mapping a witness state among other states in a reactive configuration.
“Like with dogs, or other men, in situations where men are jostling for status, I will simply not play the game.
“It’s like I withdraw into a space just behind and above my head, with a connection back into the body at the base of the skull. Whole-body size, displaced from my body toward the back, about six or eight inches, with slight overlap with physical body. Gray, gaseous energy, very slow, slight movement, quite still; cool temperature. Sound = quiet, stillness, I can hear myself think.
“My surroundings get grayed out, features less distinct. I don’t much care about what’s going on, I’m disengaged. The connection through the base of the skull is back into the Reasonableness. I still have access to that from this place.
“I don’t care about what’s going on. I don’t want to participate. It bores me. There’s nothing here for me, so I’ll retreat into myself.
“No need to feel much. I have nothing at stake here. This is trivial. These people are irrelevant, not worth my energy. I have better things to do with my time and focus.”
Notice how the felt experience of this is as a dissociated body, indistinct to be sure, but retaining the general shape of the body and displaced from my physical body. This is a common form for dissociation to take, as a feeling state that maps to a location outside the body. It usually does not retain the shape of the body, but holds a quality of “me”-ness that creates the dissociation experience. I experience myself as not being fully embodied.
As such, “I” am, or perhaps I should say my experience of me is, displaced from the location occupied by the intense states we’ve mapped as part of this set. When my awareness is situated primarily in this observer position, I am free from the distressful intensity of those states.
About the Witness or Observer
As we will see in future articles describing the inner architecture of the feeling mind, we always have access to a witness or observer position. This witness or observer, (your choice of what to call it), can also be mapped, just like any other feeling or state of mind, no matter how abstract or feeling-less it seems to be. (Recall Reasonableness in this series.)
In fact, the Feelingwork mapping process itself tends to anchor our awareness more strongly in a witness part of consciousness. In order to answer the mapping questions about location, temperature, substance and the others, we need to step back from being “in” the feeling state and observe it from a more objective, outside position. To do so, we tend to place our awareness in a witness position.
It’s a fairly straightforward process to map this witness after mapping another state or two. When I’m facilitating this, I’ll say something along the lines of:
As you’ve mapped (and/or moved) these other states, there was a part of you which was able to observe this process and maintain your sense of self as you went into one state after another. What would you like to call that “self” part of you which was able to witness and observe your process of mapping (and/or moving) those states?
I’m going for an answer like “me,” “myself,” “the observer,” or “the witness.” After my client gives it a name, we proceed with mapping it just like we would map any other state.
If you’re thinking ahead here, you’ll notice this witness mapping process sets up what seems like it could become an endless loop. In order to map the witness, you have to place the center of your awareness in an observer position somewhere outside of the witness state, as a kind of witness to the witness. What happens if you map that meta-witness?
For now, I’m going to leave that to you to contemplate and explore. (The answer, and the experience of pursuing the question, are quite fascinating and even, shall I say, mind-blowing.) As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be going into the architecture in more depth in future articles.
As for tomorrow, I’ve been contemplating whether or not to detour into commentary unpacking the mapping to this point, particularly to explore what the revelation of this kind of inner structure lends to the conversations about difference and conflict in public life. How is it that people can become so polarized, even, (and perhaps especially), when they originate in the same family?
For now, though, I’ll just invite you to think about it based on what I’ve shown you so far about the inner dynamics of this particular person, (me), in this particular context. What does this complexity and internal strife suggest to you with respect to interpreting some of the most contentious aspects of our society today?
To give you a little added perspective for now, I’ll just say that the Vicious Enforcer set was merely the tip of the iceberg in my own inner mess, a mess with many layers and dimensions that has taken me quite a long time to unpack and straighten out with the help of Feelingwork. So keep in mind that one of the key insights emerging from Feelingwork is the sheer depth and complexity of the human psyche. There is far more to each one of us than has ever been accounted for. I’ll be sharing much more of my own journey with you down the line, and I invite you to begin your own journey at any time.